Which of these best exemplifies the uninhibited nature of the genre?

Really, really, REALLY have to get a bunch of nonblog stuff done today, and don’t know when I’ll get back to you. So while I’m doing it, ponder the question I just posed on Twitter:

What’s the best full-momentum, unleashed rock ‘n’ roll song: Seger’s “Katmandu,” CCR’s “Travelin’ Band,” or Elvis’ “Hard-Headed Woman”?

Why those three? Well, I was coming back from an errand with a cup of Starbucks, and “Katmandu” came on the radio. And I thought, what’s better — at what it does — than that? And the answer quickly came — “Travelin’ Band” and the best of all, “Hard-Headed Woman.”

Oops. I just gave away the answer. Well, my answer. This is one of these things where opinions are just that, without anyone being right (and despite what some people think, not everything is like that). So I’m really interested in what you think, as your opinions on the matter are just as valid as mine (he said with an air of self-congratulatory generosity and a tone of condescension).

Bonus question: To follow the Hornby orthodoxy, what other two songs sharing those characteristics would fill out the Top Five?

52 thoughts on “Which of these best exemplifies the uninhibited nature of the genre?

  1. bud

    John Lenin’s “Whatever gets you Through the Night” is the best. It exemplifies the era of the mid-70 better than anything else. And it was written during the best decade of them all.

  2. Brad

    But don’t you think his bloody-throat cover of “Twist and Shout” better fits this list?

    I say that because I almost added it myself…

  3. Brad

    And I enjoyed the Freudian “John Lenin.” No wonder Nixon tried to keep him out of the country! He and that Groucho Marx and their radical ways!

    And to think, SOME of y’all want to be able to edit comments…

  4. Brad

    Of course, almost anything by Little Richard should fit on this list. Maybe he should be off-limits to give others a chance. He should have his OWN Top Five list…

  5. Greg

    Freud and John Lennon? A scary mix.
    I can’t really endorse any of your original three, or even the two add ons, though Twist and Shout comes closer to filling my choice, at least within your criteria.
    Out of curiosity, I checked my “most-played” list on iTunes. Songs from Asia (80s prog supergroup), and a (neo-prog band from the UK) Marillion top my list.

  6. Brad

    That is so wild. I was just approving those last three comments, and “Born to Run” came on Pandora — on a station I created this morning BASED ON the first three songs I mentioned.

    Which means that Doug and Pandora operate on similar algorithms.

    That would be a good name for a sort of alt-geek rock band: The Algorhythms.

    I might add that to my list of band names…

  7. bud

    The sax is just so cool on Whatever gets you through the Night. Not sure I quite understand the criteria but that song reminds me of my days as a carefree college man.

  8. Jesse S.

    Wrong direction. Rock came from young white men trying to imitate blues men. To get it right you have to go to the source and pervert it. So you take a young black man and throw him on the chitlin circuit, run him through R&B and then put him on a lot of drugs. If this were applied anywhere else in American life you’d face certain failure, but instead you send him off to imitate those blues men. Yes kids, the greatest rock song in the history of music was Voodoo Chile. There is no escaping this fact. It is a constant of the universe.

  9. Brad

    OK, to be clear, and to answer Bud’s implied question…

    I’m not looking for the greatest rock song, or greatest rock ‘n’ roll song (and those have different meanings to me) ever. This is a subset of that.

    I was thinking of songs that are… uninhibited… no holds barred… full-tilt… fast-moving… all-out… while still working and being really appealing. There are lots of songs, particularly in the heavy-metal genre, that involve a lot of shouting and fast tempo. That’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for something that’s ALMOST completely out of control, but still really appealing esthetically. That’s a delicate balance. For instance (speaking of white boys doing black men’s music), Pandora is at this moment offering me The Swinging Blue Jeans doing “Hippy Hippy Shake.”

    No, thank you. Bad call, Pandora.

    Anyway, the above modifiers (full-tilt, etc.) are what Katmandu, Travelin’ Band, and especially Hard Headed Woman make me think of.

    I think the kind of force-of-nature energy that made Elvis the King, back in the days before he started dying his hair black, when he was real, is most fully on display in “Hard-Headed Woman.” It has a sort of eternal, aboriginal, feel to it, which is increased by the use of Old Testament figures. One of my earliest and most indelible memories of song lyrics, from when I was 4 or 5, is “you better keep your cotton-pickin’ finguhs out mah curly hair…” I used to love saying that, which probably worried my parents.

    But it’s not what he said. It’s the way he sang it…

  10. Doug Ross

    The truth is out – I am an algorithm. As someone who started writing BASIC programs on a Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1978, what else could I be?

    Others that may fit the requirements:

    Stones – Satisfaction

    Meatloaf – Bat Out of Hell

    I would start this song on my 8-track player in my 1977 Chevette when I left work and then try to make it home before the song ended. The song is 9:52 long and I had to drive about 8 miles).

  11. Libb

    I’m really an R&B kind of person but I’ll go with Steppenwolf’s Born To Be Wild or Magic Carpet Ride.

  12. Steven Davis

    “The truth is out – I am an algorithm. As someone who started writing BASIC programs on a Radio Shack TRS-80 in 1978, what else could I be?”

    With or without a floppy drive? Saving to cassette tapes where you had a 50-50 chance of it ever loading.

  13. Brad

    Which means, Doug, you drove like… the subject of the song.

    While I think “Satisfaction” is a good candidate for the category, I prefer Otis Redding’s cover version for that purpose.

    A few years ago, I compiled a CD of songs for road trips, and I put the DEVO and Otis versions of Satisfaction back-to-back on it, for contrast. DEVO showed what the song sounded like completely bleached of any traces of soul energy whatsoever, and Otis sang it with way MORE soul than Mick Jagger could manage, being a mere white boy.

    It was like mixing matter and anti-matter, which Scotty will tell you is really dangerous…

  14. Brad

    There WERE no floppy drives then — just magnetic tape.

    Doug, you sure you had a Trash-80 that early? I don’t remember seeing them until later.

    By the mid-80s, they were the standard remote writing platform for reporters — with a tiny, tiny hard drive that held maybe three or four stories. But in 78, we were still using typewriters with Mojo wires — if you wanted to lug them. Me, I just scribbled some notes in my notebook and then dictated a story to someone back at the paper over the phone. As in, “Get me rewrite!”

  15. Brad

    I had an old Trash-80 sitting on my windowsill in my office at the paper. Next to a little clicker for sending Morse code. Don’t know where I put them when I packed up to leave…

  16. Doug Ross

    1978 or very early in 1979. My parents bought it for me before I graduated high school and I sold it to a professor at Purdue during my freshman year.

    From Wikipdedia: “TRS-80 was Tandy Corporation’s desktop microcomputer model line, sold through Tandy’s Radio Shack stores in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The first units, ordered unseen, were delivered in November 1977, and rolled out to the stores the third week of December.”

  17. Steven Davis

    Yes there were, in 1983 our high school bought a 2nd computer and it was a Radio Shack TRS-80 that had two 5-1/4″ floppy drives. The operating system went into drive A: and your data was stored on drive B:.

    This was in comparison to the one purchased in 1982 which stored data on a tape recorder… and we used TDK tapes (which we also used to copy LPs and other cassette tapes.

  18. Burl Burlingame

    So many cool rave-ups. I love them all: There’s always The Klezmatics’ “Sirba Matey Matey”:


    And Carlene Carter’s “Every Little Thing” (a perfect pop song):


    Or the Go-Gos “Turn to You”


    Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”


    Dave Edmunds’ “Crawling From the Wreckage”


    And of course the greatest piece of American pop music recorded in the last century:

  19. jfx

    Oh my gosh, 31 comments and still not one with the correct answer.

    Best full-momentum, unleashed rock ‘n’ roll song? Ever? Led Zeppelin. Rock and Roll. Three minutes and forty seconds of rock perfection.

    The Hendrix version of Rock Me Baby also has the juice.

  20. Burl Burlingame

    I once drowned a Trash-80. I smuggled one onto the bombing island of Kahoolawe to take a couple days’ worth of notes, but the only way off the island was to jump in and swim out to the reef and get picked up. I triple-bagged the 80, but as I swam for the fishing boat, it suddenly pulled away, out to sea. I drifted down the coast for a couple of miles, then the boat returned — it had wrapped a leader around one of its screws and had to go out to a safe distance and cut it loose while they drifted. Anyway, the Trash-80 looked like an aquarium when we unbagged it.

  21. Norm Ivey

    My nominees(in no particular order and trying not to be obscure):

    Cheap Trick-I Want You to Want Me
    Blackfoot-Train, Train
    Edgar Winter-Frankenstein
    Joe Walsh-Funk #49
    ZZ Top-Tush

    The most difficult task was keeping it to 5 songs. I’m going to put together a playlist of everybody’s suggestions. Should make a heluva road trip mix. For an interesting juxtaposition a la Brad’s “Satisfaction” CD, back Elvis’s Burning Love with Mother’s Finest’s version.

  22. Doug T

    Blue Mountain: Black Dog
    REM: It’s the End of the World as We Know It.

    (…and my favorite Jerry Lee song isn’t a rocker…She Even Woke Me Up to Say Good Bye)

  23. Nick Nielsen

    My list, in no particular order:

    Two already mentioned:
    “Born to Run”
    “I’m Going Home.”

    Some others:

    Queen – Sheer Heart Attack.


    Chase – Get it On


    Deep Purple – Highway Star


    My all-time fave, though is Santana’s Soul Sacrifice, as played at Woodstock


    And thanks for your last one, Burl. I hadn’t heard that in years.

  24. Ralph Hightower

    One of the first 8-tracks that I bought for the 55 Chevy pickup that I drove in the late 60’s was Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”

    The 8-track was as add on. It only had AM radio.

  25. Doug Ross


    Cheap Trick-I Want You to Want Me
    Edgar Winter-Frankenstein

    Agree on those two completely.

  26. Brad

    Iron Butterfly!

    “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” was awesome, but I don’t think it quite fits the category.

    I think Burl gets the Nick Hornby award for most esoteric and eclectic list. His list was the coolest, since it refers to one or two bands I haven’t even heard of.

    He was like that in high school, too. Always had to be the guy with the hippest knowledge. Never lets up, blast him…

  27. jfx

    Burl, isn’t replicating a Jimmy Page solo about as easy as breakdancing on stilts? Requiring similar hip movements, even? Forget about the Heartbreaker solo. I’d substitute in something. Maybe just blast a hairdryer through a bullhorn for 90 seconds.

  28. Burl Burlingame

    BTW, if you’re playing in a band and you want to cover Led Zepplin’s “Rock and Roll,” Jimmy Page makes a slight timing mistake in the lead guitar part that is pretty imperceptible unless you’re trying to replay the song. At that point, your band will start squabbling about whether to play the song straight or to reproduce Page’s timing error, and you never will get the tune nailed. I’m just sayin’.

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